The freedman's bureau and justice / by kevin murray

In 1865, the war was coming to its conclusion, and an abiding question, faced by America, was what to do with the approximately four million slaves, that were now freed, but without property, without money, and often without education.  Basically, to just free slaves, which was accomplished because of the Civil War, but not to provide these liberated slaves the tools, infrastructure, and aid to become vibrant and equal citizens within America, would be seen only as a job half done.


The brilliance of Lincoln was exemplified by his work with Congress in envisioning, constructing, and thereupon passing a comprehensive bill, known as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, which was an important piece of legislation, passed in March of 1865; however, only one month later, Lincoln was assassinated.  How much this Bureau would have accomplished with someone as wise and as skilled as Lincoln in command, is open to debate, but no doubt, with Lincoln in office, it would have done far more than this Bill accomplished, for though the words were there, to be of true benefit to blacks, by creating a structure to provide gainful employee, by setting up institutions of schools for literacy and education, and by providing equal justice for blacks in a court of law; in actual effect, ultimately, this Bill was a severe disappointment.


The most basic point of this is not so much that the freedman's bureau was created, and then subsequently ended up not accomplishing what it had been set forth to do; but rather, the recognition that over 150 years ago, the freedman's bureau, along with the passage of the 13th through 15th Amendments to our Constitution, were the very basis for blacks, of all situations, but specifically those that were formerly enslaved, to become full and vibrant citizens with equal rights and opportunities that had been previously wrongly denied  to them.


In addition, because it was the south that rose up against the north, and it was the south that rebelled against the north, and it was the south that created disunion from this indissoluble union; defying the highest law of the land, our Constitution, along with taking up arms against their fellow citizens--then, it most definitely should have been the south, in which, they would have to make amends for what was their sin and their wrong, that they could not and would not let go of, to the very point of civil war.


In point of fact, the newly freed black people, had an absolute right to all the abandoned southern lands that they had labored upon with no compensation; in addition to the right to have granted to them, lands for their usage and livelihood, especially in consideration that for many blacks, that all that they did and performed previously was based upon the land, and especially in recognition, that most newly freed blacks were, in fact, uneducated and illiterate.  So too, this government had an absolute obligation to provide a sound education to all those of the newest generation of freed blacks so that they could obtain opportunity, previously denied to them; along with a court of justice that practiced what it preached, of fair and equal justice without prejudice, for all.


The freedman's bureau set the table for these things to happen, and many tried hard to make that happen, but it did not happen; and even until this day, this country has still not done all that this country could do, for those that were done so horribly wrong.